GDC: MMOs, past, present and future

See Alice’s post on the same session for more detail. :)

Gordon Walton, Mark Jacobs, Daniel James, Mark Kern, Raph Koster,
Rob Pardo.

The Past

What’s worked well in the past? Name 1-2 games.

Daniel: Grinding has worked well, is very compelling. Elite was awesome as it was so open.

Mark: Leveling and classes don’t make sense outside the gamer context. If you sit someonw down who never played mmos it’s a hard experience.

Raph feels sometimes that we’ve only ever done two games. DikuMUD, LambdaMOO. Many, many MMOs created by a small group of guys who created these muds way back then.

The Present

We’re in an era where WoW dominates, “Post WoW times”.

Daniel: it’s interesting to see Runescape (with terrible production values) come out of nowhere and work so well.

WoW lesson: you have to work globally. Your game has to work in Europe, US, Asia. Making compatible is hard.

Message to journalists: do not ask if the market is saturated? NO. There will be another WoW. “I don’t think that’ll be Warhammer.” Polish your game, if players can use the game as a mirror, it’s good enough. :)

Raph: big lesson of WoW is to not look at WoW. There are multiple multi-million MMOs out in Europe and US right now. It’s a good thing someone forces people to thinks smart instead of thinking big.

Match your content to the advancement curve. If you have content for 100 hours, don’t make the advancement to highest level take 500 hours. It’s important your developers like playing the game, the games live for a long time and if you have to develop something because you just have to, the decisions will start to go bad.

The Future

Give 3 predictions.

Raph: #1 We’ll see a massive explosion of virtual worlds. Majority will not be box games. Project Darkstar just went open source. Club Penguin. #2 The nest big publishers will come from television and film industry. Viacom has created three MMOs in the last six monthts. They’re moving in with massive multi mullion dollars. #3 Increasingly many non-game worlds are becoming bigger. Second Life. PS 3 would not exist without SL. Tail is wagging the dog. Kaneva. Lots of SL clones coming out. User content uploads, ability to cash out, entertainment.

Mark Jacobs: #1 lots of more new types of games. Explosion of games. #2 Lots of corpses, it’s going to be unbelievable. There’s a shocking amount of money going around. Media guys running around, here’s 50 million, can you make a game like WoW? #3 Somebody will beat WoW. It’s nothing to do with how smart Blizard guys are. Someone will just hop the bar. Won’t be for a while but it will happen.

Rob: #1 Disagree with Raph, important games will not come from big media. They will make games which will not be very good. #2 There will be lots of MMOs which should not have been made MMOs at all. #3 It’s not going to be just US market anymore, think globally.

Mark Kern: #1 Our definition of MMO will change. Strong stories, strong characters etc. Boxes on shelves will not dominate the future. Asia it’s all download. #2 It’ll become really cheap to start an MMO. #3 Virtual networking?

Dan: Lots of poeple will lost their shirt #1 This media will destroy television. Awesome thing for humanity. Advertising business will migrate to this medium. #2 Social networking, games will go much more towards web than downloadble. Simple, not complicated. #3 Crazy regulatory issues. Wondering if should outshore now before the government decides Daniel is running a gambling business or something.

QA: Telcos, benefit or threat? Dan: not relevant. As long as data moves. Fiber will be good for games industry. Net Neutrality is important.

Webcans (sp?). Buy plush toy at Toys ‘r us, they have an mmo.

Raph: Xfire. Fliff. Youlgang. Silkroad online. Korean games, getting massive amounts of play time.

What is an MMO? Not a question for this session.

Justin Hall mentioned his Passively Multiplayer games idea. Got adviced he should trademark the name.

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